New Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey will participate in a conference call with members of the Twin Cities media late this morning. And of course, the obvious questions will arise. Just how much will running back Maurice Jones-Drew be able to do this weekend when the Jags come to Mall of America Field to open the regular season? What kinds of strides has second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert shown through the preseason? And what about rookie receiver Justin Blackmon, a promising young playmaker who was on the Vikings' radar before they opted to take Matt Kalik with the No. 4 pick in April.
But Mularkey will also be asked to revisit his days as a tight end here in Minnesota. He was with the Vikings from 1983-88 And this week, he told reporters in Jacksonville that the final two Viking teams he played on fell short of what they should have accomplished. The 1987 Vikings finished 8-7 in a strike-interrupted year and eventually lost 17-10 to the Redskins in the NFC Championship game. In 1988, the Vikings were 11-5 and lost to the 49ers 34-9 in their second playoff game.
Here's an excerpt from today's Florida Times-Union on what Mularkey had to say:
Mularkey stresses the values of team chemistry and intangibles.
Mularkey said he learned the importance of putting team first when he played with the Minnesota Vikings from 1983-1988. The last two years they were knocked out of the playoffs by Washington and San Francisco, two teams that went on to win the Super Bowl.
“It wasn’t that they weren’t good people. It was distractions. More of those guys were concerned about themselves than they were about the team. Great players, though. Absolutely great players. They had 13 Pro Bowlers [actually six in 1987 and nine in 1988]. It was a frustrating locker room because those guys that weren’t the most talented [were] the guys that worked their tail off. I was around a lot of talent. We should have won a lot more games than we did,’’ he said.
The Vikings did have a lot of talent. In 1988, their defense led the league in yards allowed, yards allowed per play and first downs allowed and led the league in 53 takeaways. The defensive line was anchored by Hall of Famer Chris Doleman and Keith Millard.
And they had a pair of Hall of Fame offensive linemen in Randall McDaniel and Gary Zimmerman.
But they had a journeyman quarterback in Wade Wilson and a coach in Jerry Burns, who was 55-46 with the team.
The 1987-88 teams were featured in the book “Blindside’’ about the importance of the left tackle. The author, Michael Lewis, contends the Vikings beat the 49ers in the 1987 playoffs because they couldn’t block Doleman. In 1988, the 49ers blocked him, protected Joe Montana and won.
Mularkey said there was more of a team concept when he went to Pittsburgh in 1989.
The Steelers went 9-7 in 1989 to get a wild-card berth, beat Houston in the playoffs and lost in Denver.
Now Mularkey gets to show how far the Jaguars can go this year with their team concept.